Tuesday, April 6, 2010

US and Tehran - Dual Nuclear Summits, Axis of Cyberevil, Heritage's Economic Freedom Index

Dana Milbank
Mary Dejevsky
Reza Pahlavi
"You know, 30,000 people showed up for the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House today. Or as Fox News calls it, a 'socialist free food giveaway.'" – Jay Leno
"And last week, Sarah Palin gave a speech in Nevada, where she criticized President Barack Obama for being a constitutional law professor. The problem with that statement is Sarah Palin thinks that's an insult. Only in America, you want to insult someone, call them a teacher." – Jay Leno
"Today, President Obama threw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals' game. Obama took a short windup and threw a high-arcing pitch. Of course, Democrats saw the pitch as moderately close to the middle, while Republicans are calling it 'way to the left and possibly socialist.'" – Jimmy Fallon

One of the links above is to an opinion piece by Reza Pahlavi, the former Crown Prince and son of the Shah of Iran. The Huffington Post just lists him as a human rights activist, but you should  know who he is and what his roots are if you read his column. Mary Dejevsky writes a column for the Independent in Britain. I always like people's takes on our foreign policy who live outside the US, it's like using a different pair of glasses.

Sometimes world politics reminds me of an Andy Hardy movie, when you don't have a solution to a problem, put on a show... Barack Obama came of age when the greatest source of anxiety facing young people 20-30 years ago was the threat of nuclear annihilation. It has formed his, and many other world leaders his age, feelings and policies concerning nuclear weaponry. Today he will formally announce how the recently negotiated nuclear non-proliferation treaty with Russia, will sign it in Prague, and how will change US policy towards the possible use of nuclear arms aimed at other nations. At that time there will be a nuclear summit come April, where a whopping 22 countries, including China, will attend.

China will also then go to Iran, which has, in the best Andy Hardy tradition, announced that it too, host a nuclear summit: "Iranian officials announced the two-day conference, entitled "Nuclear energy for everyone, nuclear arms for no one", on Sunday.

Officials said that 60 countries had been invited to attend the meeting, which will run from April 17-18. Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, said the conference aims to show that Tehran wants to promote nuclear disarmament while encouraging peaceful nuclear energy production. "Iran, as a country supporting global disarmament, invites the world to disarm and prevent proliferation," he told the state-run Irna news agency." Its too bad that Iran can't come to the US conference, and vice versa. Even better if they could join together and host one huge conference, it would be the first time that there is actual communication between Iran and the US on this issue. As it stands now, it looks like Iran is staging a piece of theater for the world audience, take no notice of that man standing behind the curtain... To really prove that Iran has no intentions of making nuclear weapons, all they have to do is let the UN inspectors in and watch them on a full-time basis, to dispel our fears. As it is, nobody trusts them at their word, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is never taken seriously because he has acted like such a clown in the past. But, why not send Hillary and Robert Gates to Tehran in April, send them uninvited if we have to. We need to engage these people, confront them at a personal level and Hillary is someone who would talk honestly, forcefully, and pull no punches.

In a court ruling against the FCC a federal appeals court said that: "the agency lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks."

The FCC actually was trying to set rules regarding the Internet that would make all sources equally free, and not let businesses like Comcast restrict them for its customers. It wanted information to have equal freedom for all of us, and we get to have the liberty to access it (this last metaphor is for the tea party crowd). "The ruling would allow Comcast and other Internet service providers to restrict consumers’ ability to access certain kinds of Internet content, such as video sites like Hulu.com or Google’s YouTube service, or charge certain heavy users of their networks more money for access. Google, Microsoft and other big producers of Web content have argued that such controls or pricing policies would thwart innovation and customer choice."

On the other hand, the appeals court ruling is a stab at the FFC's attempt to establish its authority over the Internet, and it leaves it free of oversight, in the wonderful realm of chaos...

Part of that chaos is the art of cyber-warfare, such as the recent flap that Google had, tracing some hackers back into China. Yet another report on Chinese spying was released Monday, that: "... provided a detailed account of how a spy operation it called the Shadow Network systematically hacked into personal computers in government offices on several continents.

The Toronto spy hunters not only learned what kinds of material had been stolen, but were able to see some of the documents, including classified assessments about security in several Indian states, and confidential embassy documents about India’s relationships in West Africa, Russia and the Middle East. The intruders breached the systems of independent analysts, taking reports on several Indian missile systems. They also obtained a year’s worth of the Dalai Lama’s personal e-mail messages.

The intruders even stole documents related to the travel of NATO forces in Afghanistan, illustrating that even though the Indian government was the primary target of the attacks, one chink in computer security can leave many nations exposed."
“We snuck around behind the backs of the attackers and picked their pockets. I’ve not seen anything remotely close to the depth and the sensitivity of the documents that we’ve recovered.”
Of course, when the Chinese government was asked to comment, they angrily denied any knowledge: "When asked about the new report on Monday, a propaganda official in Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu, said “it’s ridiculous” to suggest that the Chinese government might have played a role. “The Chinese government considers hacking a cancer to the whole society,” said the official, Ye Lao." So, this is another case of computer hackings into "friends" of the Chinese government, obtaining sensitive and personal information, with the trail leading back into the interior of China. There certainly are a lot of pranks being pulled by Chinese professors of computer technology... Couple them up with the Iranian government's hackers that put up a firewall and slowed down transmissions into the country from satellites, violating the contracts it had with the makers of those satellites, and we have the makings for a new axis of cyberevil...

Here is a link to the newly released Heritage Foundation's Economic Freedom Index, where the US has landed in 8th place. It's interesting to note that it ranked a Communist country in first place, and blamed the Obama administration for all of the US's lower rankings. And, as TPM noted: "Among the countries now ranked higher than the U.S. are Canada (where health care is universal), Singapore (where spitting is forbidden) and Ireland (whose economy was free to experience a near collapse)." The Heritage Foundation is the most influential conservative think tank, based in Washington DC. It's stated goals are: "... to "formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."[3] So, if you are not an establishment conservative, take it with a grain of salt...

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